At one point in history it had the same value as gold. After studying up on it I can see why. It was amazing to find out all the medicinal uses throughout history and still today. Even John Hopkins has done studies on it for it's anti-inflammatory properties and releaving anxiety.
It is a resin that is tapped from trees that grow on rocky hillsides and cliffs or in dry river beds. The trees grow best in a dry climate. Some of the countries that it grows best in is Oman, Yemen, India, and parts of Northern Africa. The trees grow to about 20 feet and their branches begin near the base/bottom of the tree.
The resin is best harvested two times a year. January to March and also August to October. To harvest the resin one has to make a large cut in the tree and leave it for a couple of weeks or longer. The tree produces the resin to "heal" the cut and seal it off from infection getting into the tree. The longer the resin is left to harden the easier it is to harvest it. Once harvested the resin is then left alone for 12 weeks to age.
Medical and other uses -
In aromatherapy it is used as an antidepressant. (Which I have to agree, the smell is very uplifting)
The medicinal applications are almost endless. Not just the resin but the entire tree was used.
The bark was ground to a powder and made into a paste which helped with swelling and also rheumatic arthritis.
Used in a tea to help with stomach problems and morning sickness and also thought to ease morning sickness.
Can be used as an antiseptic when mixed with water used on cuts and burns.
Often used in eye washes. The smoke is thought to help with sore or tired eyes.
The bark and resin were used in making splints. A cloth would be soaked in the resin before it hardened and then wrapped around two pieces of the bark placed over the broken limb. Then the resin would harden to make a make shift cast.
Most modern uses medically is for rheumatoid arthritis and is also administered for gastro-intestinal diseases like colitis and Crohn's.
It was also one of the ingredients used in ancient embalming practices.
Magical uses -
Magically it is associated with the Sun God Ra and connected to the fire element, also listed as gender male (though I am not sure what that exactly means, next thing to study). It is used for protection and purification and luck. Use the oil to anoint your tools or yourself. It is said to accelerate spiritual growth. Rids negative energy. Helps with psychic abilities and meditation.
I was really blown away by this and amazed that our ancestors used it so much. I feel that it is something that isn't even heard about in modern times. A lot of people associate it with the birth of Jesus, it being one of the gifts that the three wise men brought to the baby. I often wondered why would you bring a spice to a baby, but learning of its purpose and how much it was valued I can now see why.
The magical purposes seem to mainly deal with protection and purification. Catholic churches still use it to this day for those reasons as well. Isn't it amazing that though the world views all the religions as being so different but when you get down to it we are all kind of same. Yeah sure some of the rituals and thinking about the Divine is a bit different but even with this one little thing like frankincense we all use it for the same thing.